Imagine stripping down and stepping into a water tank filled with 1,000-plus pounds of Epsom salt. Free of sound, free of gravity, and free of light (yes, you are in total darkness). Just you and your thoughts, floating in the water in total darkness for an hour. Welcome to the latest in wellness treatments: sensory deprivation tanks. The tanks have been around for a while, since 1954, when scientist John C. Lilly supposedly took LSD and did experiments in the tank.
Mindbodygreen's Allie White reported earlier this year that the “tanks promise total-body rehabilitation. Physically, they're effective at treating certain chronic pain and illness and can even help with high blood pressure and fatigue. Mentally, floating is believed to help with stress by lowering levels of cortisol and allow for a deep state of relaxation (aka the perfect place for mediation). It's also supposed to help get creative juices flowing by removing distraction and instead allowing the floater to focus only on what's happening in his or her brain.”
More athletes are beginning to use them as a way to get a mental edge. But what does a real doc think?
“I like sensory deprivation tanks,” says Dr. Frank Lipman, founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center. “I used to go about 20 years ago when there was only one place in New York City that had them. It’s a great way to get you into a deep state of relaxation and sort of forces you to meditate or get super relaxed. But they are obviously not good for anyone who is claustrophobic.”
Joe Dowdell, founder & CEO of Peak Performance, will have a flotation pod in his new New York City facility opening in February. He sees athletes and executives embracing it and explains that ”the float pod helps promote a parasympathetic state, which can speed up the recovery process. Floating is not just great for athletes but also for anyone who is dealing with a lot of work and/or life stress such as busy corporate executives.”